07 30 2016
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  • Russian hackers likely responsible for hacking attack on Clinton HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Giddy if exhausted, Hillary Clinton embarked on a post-convention Rust Belt bus tour just hours after becoming the first female presidential nominee of a major political party. The celebratory mood quickly evaporated amid fresh revelations that hackers had breached a program used by her campaign and Republican nominee Donald Trump promised to sharpen his barbs. "Remember this," Trump said during a rally Friday in Colorado Springs, Colorado. "Trump is going to be no more Mr. Nice Guy." And for the first time he encouraged his supporters' anti-Clinton chants of "lock her up." "I've been saying let's just beat her on Nov. 8," Trump said, "but you know what? I'm starting to agree with you." About an hour later, Clinton aides acknowledged that a hacking attack that exposed Democratic Party emails also reached into a computer system used by her own campaign. The FBI said it was working to determine the "accuracy, nature and scope" of the cyberattacks. Campaign spokesman Nick Merrill said the newly disclosed breach affected a Democratic National Committee data analytics program used by the campaign and other organizations. Outside experts found no evidence that the campaign's "internal systems have been compromised," Merrill said, but he gave no details on the program or nature of the attacks. Partnerships with modern e-commerce companies can allow sophisticated tracking, categorization and identification of website visitors and voters. President Barack Obama and cybersecurity experts have said Russia was almost certainly responsible for the DNC hack. The House Democratic campaign committee reported Friday that its information had been accessed. The developments followed the leaking of DNC emails earlier in the week that pointed to a pro-Clinton bias by party officials during her primary contest against Bernie Sanders. In the furor that followed, party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz resigned just as Democrats launched their convention. Clinton and her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, will attempt to return attention to their positive economic message on Saturday, with campaign stops through economically struggling areas of Pennsylvania and Ohio. "When we take that oath of office next January, we know we can make life better. We know we can create more good jobs," she told voters gathered at an outside market in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Clinton cited an economic analysis by economist Mark Zandi, a former economic adviser to 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain, that found more than 10 million jobs could be created in her first term if her economic proposals were put in place. Zandi's analysis of Trump's plans found they would cost the country 3.5 million jobs and lead to a "lengthy recession." Joined on the bus tour by her husband, Bill Clinton, Kaine and his wife, Anne Holton, Clinton stopped at a toy and plastics manufacturer in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, where she and Kaine cast Trump as a con artist out for his own gain. "We don't resent success in America but we do resent people who take advantage of others in order to line their own pockets," Clinton said. Trump is also focusing on Ohio and Pennsylvania, two states where he might make headway with blue-collar white men. That group of voters has eluded Clinton and may be a hard sell after a Democratic convention that heavily celebrated racial and gender diversity. Clinton is playing up economic opportunity, diversity and national security. Democrats hammered home those themes this week with an array of politicians, celebrities, gun-violence victims, law enforcement officers and activists of all races and sexual orientation. Their goal is to turn out the coalition of minority, female and young voters that twice elected Obama while offsetting expected losses among the white men drawn to Trump's message. Democrats continued contrasting their optimistic message with the more troubled vision of the state of the nation presented by Trump and others at the GOP convention a week earlier. Kaine called the "very dark and negative" event a "journey through Donald Trump's mind." "That's a very frightening place," he told thousands of supporters in Philadelphia. Clinton told voters that they faced a "stark choice," calling the coming election the most important one in her lifetime. "This is a moment of reckoning for our country. I don't recognize the country that Donald Trump describes," she said.___Lemire reported from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Associated Press writer Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.
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  • SEATTLE (AP) — Genetically modified wheat not approved for sale or commercial production in the United States has been found growing in a field in Washington state, agriculture officials said Friday, posing a possible risk to trade with countries concerned about engineered food. The Food and Drug Administration says genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are safe and little scientific concern exists about the safety of those on the market. But critics say not enough is known about their risks, and they want GMOs labeled so people know what's in their food. Several Asian countries temporarily banned U.S. wheat imports after genetically modified wheat was found unexpectedly in a field on an Oregon farm in 2013. It also popped up in a field at a university research center in Montana in 2014. It wasn't immediately clear how altered wheat cropped up in Washington. But the U.S. Agriculture Department said there is no evidence it has entered the market. If it did, the FDA concluded that "it is unlikely that the wheat would present any safety concerns if present in the food supply," the department said. A farmer discovered 22 plants in an unplanted field, and the wheat was developed to be resistant to the herbicide known as Roundup, created by seed giant Monsanto, the USDA said. An agency spokeswoman did not know where in the state it was found. Federal officials said they were working with the farmer to ensure that none of the modified wheat is sold. Out of caution, the agency said it is holding and testing the farmer's full wheat harvest, but so far it has not found GMOs. The plants are a type of wheat that had been evaluated in limited field trials in the Pacific Northwest from 1998 to 2001 but never commercialized, Monsanto said in a statement. It said the type found in Washington state is similar to the one discovered in Oregon three years ago; it has the same inserted DNA but in a different location. No variety of genetically engineered wheat has been approved for commercial use or production in the U.S. GMOs are plants or animals that have had genes copied from other plants or animals inserted into their DNA. Most genetically engineered crops are corn and soybeans eaten by livestock or made into popular processed food ingredients like cornstarch, soybean oil or high fructose corn syrup. Only a handful of modified fruits and vegetables are available, including Hawaiian papaya, some zucchini and squash and a small percentage of sweet corn. The FDA also has approved for consumption a genetically engineered salmon that would grow faster than traditional salmon, but it's not yet available in grocery stores. South Korea said Friday that it will inspect U.S. wheat imports for genetically modified wheat, the Yonhap News Agency reported. The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said it has asked the USDA for information on the unapproved wheat and inspection methods. The USDA said it has validated a test that Monsanto developed for the herbicide-resistant wheat, which would be available to trading partners. "Trading partners will get the tests. I believe that once they have those in place, they'll continue buying," said Glen Squires, CEO of the Washington Grain Commission, a state agency that represents wheat farmers. "We don't anticipate any major disruptions." The USDA also said it has beefed up oversight of genetically engineered field trials and now requires developers to apply for a permit for those involving GMO wheat starting this year. In 2014, genetically modified wheat plants were found at a university research center in Huntley, Montana, where it was legally tested by Monsanto in the early 2000s. The plants in eastern Oregon were found in a field that had never conducted such tests, and the USDA closed its investigation two years ago unable to determine how the wheat got there. Different strains were found in each state. The Washington Association of Wheat Growers and the Washington State Agriculture Department referred questions to federal authorities.
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  • Six current or former state employees were charged Friday with misconduct and other crimes in the Flint water crisis 
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  • Hillary Clinton cast herself as a unifier for divided times, an experienced leader steeled for a volatile world 
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(CNN) -- U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan have killed far more people than the United States has acknowledged, have traumatized innocent residents and largely been ineffective, according to a new study released Tuesday.

The study by Stanford Law School and New York University's School of Law calls for a re-evaluation of the practice, saying the number of "high-level" targets killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low -- about 2%.

The report accuses Washington of misrepresenting drone strikes as "a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the U.S. safer," saying that in reality, "there is significant evidence that U.S. drone strikes have injured and killed civilians."

It also casts doubts on Washington's claims that drone strikes produce zero to few civilian casualties and alleges that the United States makes "efforts to shield the drone program from democratic accountability."

The drone strike program has long been controversial, with conflicting reports on its impact from U.S. and Pakistani officials and independent organizations.

President Barack Obama told CNN last month that a target must meet "very tight and very strict standards," and John Brennan, the president's top counter-terrorism adviser, said in April that in "exceedingly rare" cases, civilians have been "accidentally injured, or worse, killed in these strikes."

In contrast to more conservative U.S. statements, the Stanford/NYU report -- titled "Living Under Drones" -- offers starker figures published by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, an independent organization based at City University in London.

"TBIJ reports that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562 - 3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474 - 881 were civilians, including 176 children. TBIJ reports that these strikes also injured an additional 1,228 - 1,362 individuals," according to the Stanford/NYU study.

Based on interviews with witnesses, victims and experts, the report accuses the CIA of "double-striking" a target, moments after the initial hit, thereby killing first responders.

It also highlights harm "beyond death and physical injury," publishing accounts of psychological trauma experienced by people living in Pakistan's tribal northwest region, who it says hear drones hover 24 hours a day.

"Before this we were all very happy," the report quotes an anonymous resident as saying. "But after these drones attacks a lot of people are victims and have lost members of their family. A lot of them, they have mental illnesses."

People have to live with the fear that a strike could come down on them at any moment of the day or night, leaving behind dead whose "bodies are shattered to pieces," and survivors who must be desperately sped to a hospital.

The report concedes that "real threats to U.S. security and to Pakistani civilians exist in the Pakistani border areas now targeted by drones." And it acknowledges that drone strikes have "killed alleged combatants and disrupted armed actor networks."

But it concludes that drone strikes, which are conducted by the CIA in a country not at war with the United States, are too harmful to civilians, too sloppy, legally questionable and do more harm to U.S. interests than good.

"A significant rethinking of current U.S. targeted killing and drone strike policies is long overdue," it says. "U.S. policy-makers, and the American public, cannot continue to ignore evidence of the civilian harm and counter-productive impacts of U.S. targeted killings and drone strikes in Pakistan."

The study recommends that Washington undertake measures to rectify collateral damage -- including making public detailed legal justification for strikes, implementing mechanisms transparently to account for civilian casualties, ensuring independent investigations into drone strike deaths, prosecuting cases of civilian casualties and compensating civilians harmed by U.S. strikes in Pakistan.

Nine months of research went into the report, according to its authors, which included "two investigations in Pakistan, more than 130 interviews with victims, witnesses, and experts, and review of thousands of pages of documentation and media reporting."

U.S. authorities have largely kept quiet on the subject of drone strikes in Pakistan.

However, the use of armed drones to target and kill suspected terrorists has increased dramatically during the Obama administration, according to Peter Bergen, CNN's national security analyst and a director at the New America Foundation, a Washington-based think tank that monitors drone strikes.

Obama has already authorized 283 strikes in Pakistan, six times more than the number during President George W. Bush's eight years in office, Bergen wrote earlier this month. As a result, the number of estimated deaths from the Obama administration's drone strikes is more than four times what it was during the Bush administration -- somewhere between 1,494 and 2,618.

However, an analysis by the New America Foundation says that the civilian casualty rate from drone strikes has been dropping sharply since 2008 despite the rising death toll.

"The number of civilians plus those individuals whose precise status could not be determined from media reports -- labeled 'unknowns' by NAF -- reported killed by drones in Pakistan during Obama's tenure in office were 11% of fatalities," said Bergen. "So far in 2012 it is close to 2%. Under President Bush it was 33%."

The foundation's analysis relies on credible media outlets in Pakistan, which in turn rely on Pakistani officials and local villagers' accounts, Bergen said, rather than on U.S. figures.

The drone program is deeply unpopular in Pakistan, where the national parliament voted in April to end any authorization for it. This, however, was "a vote that the United States government has simply ignored," according to Bergen.

Obama told CNN's Jessica Yellin this month that the use of armed drones was "something that you have to struggle with."

"If you don't, then it's very easy to slip into a situation in which you end up bending rules thinking that the ends always justify the means," he continued. "That's not been our tradition. That's not who we are as a country."

Obama also addressed his criteria for lethal action in the interview, although he repeatedly declined to acknowledge any direct involvement in selecting targets.

"It has to be a target that is authorized by our laws. It has to be a threat that is serious and not speculative. It has to be a situation in which we can't capture the individual before they move forward on some sort of operational plot against the United States," Obama said.

His security adviser, Brennan, gave the Obama administration's first public justification for drone strikes in his April speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Washington think-tank.

Such strikes are used when capture is not a feasible option and are conducted "in full accordance with the law," Brennan said.

"We only authorize a strike if we have a high degree of confidence that innocent civilians will not be injured or killed, except in the rarest of circumstances," he said.

Despite the "extraordinary precautions" taken by the United States, Brennan said, civilians "have been accidentally injured, or worse, killed in these strikes. It is exceedingly rare, but it has happened. When it does, it pains us, and we regret it deeply, as we do any time innocents are killed in war."

Brennan also cited the "the seriousness, the extraordinary care" taken by Obama and his national security team in deciding whether to use lethal force.

The London-based rights organization Reprieve, which with the help of a partner organization in Pakistan facilitated access to some of the people interviewed for the Stanford/NYU study, backed its finding that the drone program causes wider damage than is acknowledged by the U.S. government.

"This shows that drone strikes go much further than simply killing innocent civilians. An entire region is being terrorized by the constant threat of death from the skies," said Reprieve's director, Clive Stafford Smith.

"Their way of life is collapsing: kids are too terrified to go to school, adults are afraid to attend weddings, funerals, business meetings, or anything that involves gathering in groups. Yet there is no end in sight, and nowhere the ordinary men, women and children of North West Pakistan can go to feel safe."

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